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Charles-H. Schulz of The Document Foundation Answers my Questions About LibreOffice
Tuesday, September 28 2010 @ 11:02 PM EDT

I had a chance to ask Charles-H. Schulz, on the steering committee of The Document Foundation some questions I had swirling in my mind after their announcement today of LibreOffice, and he was kind enough to take time on a really busy day to answer.

I wanted to know about Mono and OOXML and all the things you are wondering about too. I had become quite worried about OpenOffice.org and Go-OO, and naturally that was on my mind, given who is involved in LibreOffice. The answers are reassuring. The Document Foundation is serious about avoiding non-free elements, and they are on the same page about that. I guess that's how they got Richard Stallman to bless the project, now that I think of it, along with so many others. And I wanted to ask him how we all can help out.

Here are the questions and his answers:

Question 1: Has Oracle responded to your invitation? What advantage do you see for Oracle saying yes?

Schulz: At the moment Oracle has not responded formally to our invitation but I'm sure they will do that soon. Oracle is still the biggest contributor of code to OpenOffice.org and as such it is obvious they should play a role. We believe not in seclusion, but in community. And if anyone wants to play a role as a member of our community then it should, and we will be very happy if Oracle joins us.

Question 2: What about Mono? What about OOXML?

Schulz: Well, that's quite easy. Mono was never really inside OOo or Go-OO to start with. What was inside Go-OO was the possibility of Mono integration, and even that sort of exists inside the "vanilla OOo". So we made sure that didn't add to this.

As for OOXML, well, we didn't take the Go-OO approach and did not include the patches developed with the "aid" of Microsoft. All in all, LibreOffice is clean, very clean, and we look forward stay that way. But enough talking on OOXML, a standard that does not exist. Let's rather focus on ODF, an existing open standard we support and promote.

Question 3: If someone wanted to help but has no prior experience with OO.o coding, what should they do to get up to speed?

Schulz: Pretty much the internals of the software, the UNO components, the presentation layout... But it's 10 million lines of code, so even to this day, you need to get yourself in it before contributing.

Question 4: Does the Foundation need donations? If so, are they tax deductible?

Schulz: Yes, we need donations, but as for their fiscal status the donations presently go to Germany so I guess it changes from where you are.

Question 5: When can we download the first version?

Schulz: Today. But we only ship a beta version in English only.

Question 6: What help do you need besides programmers?

Schulz: Localizers, documentation writers, QA testers, cheerleaders...

Question 7: Do you think this is going to hurt the advancement on Free Software on the desktop? I see some saying it's Microsoft who will be benefiting from this.

Schulz: In a world without walls, who needs Windows, really? Software is untangible; you cannot divide it like a pie. And if Microsoft thinks it can benefit from this, then they will soon be disappointed. The Document Foundation's ambition is to show that we can do better by being a real community that respects community processes: more inclusive, more agile, more innovative.

Update: H Online is reporting that "The major distributions, including Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora and SUSE, will ship with LibreOffice in preference to OpenOffice." And on page 2 of Richard Hillesley's article, in the section on why a fork, there's this:
Successful forks generally don't happen for trivial reasons. Some forks, such as Firefox, have had the blessing of the parent organisation, and have gone on to replace the parent product. In user terms LibreOffice may be the biggest fork ever of a free software project - its success or failure will be a test of the resolve of contributors, sponsors and developers.

An unusual aspect of the LibreOffice fork is that by most measurements OpenOffice.org has been a success. ...Downloads have run into the hundreds of millions.

Despite this, the decision to fork the project has been taken for positive reasons. A freeing of the code from the chains of a company with a proprietary interest in the marketing and development of the product is an opportunity for growth and development. As the Linux kernel project has demonstrated, a free software project, where the code belongs to no-one, attracts more developers. Decisions are made collaboratively, and terms for contribution are well-defined and clear. The greater the number of individual and corporate developers the greater the pool of ideas there are to work from and the faster the project grows....

LibreOffice will be uncompromisingly free software, and as one developer observes, "it is hard to think of anyone of any note in the community that isn't involved," including developers from Red Hat and Debian. The hope is that OpenOffice / Libreoffice "will go where people want it to go, because it hasn't been going where people want it to. Initially the focus will be on cleaning up the code, adding polish and increasing usability." In the longer term, the project will be much more ambitious.

If LibreOffice takes off, which it has every chance of doing, the test for the developers will be to prove that a distributed free software development model not only gives the developers greater freedom and initiative, but also produces results.

As I told you, this is a very big deal. Of course, it's not magic. It's up to you guys to make it happen. And I'm sure you will.

  


Charles-H. Schulz of The Document Foundation Answers my Questions About LibreOffice | 86 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
I'm Back!
Authored by: JimDiGriz on Tuesday, September 28 2010 @ 11:21 PM EDT
Woo,

This is the first time in a week I can connect to Groklaw.
http://downforeveryoneorjustme.com/www.groklaw.net tells me that it's only me so
I wonder if it is a routing or firewall issue. I couldn't reach ibiblio.org
either.

JdG

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • I'm Back! - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 29 2010 @ 08:37 AM EDT
    • I'm Back! - Authored by: alanjshea on Wednesday, September 29 2010 @ 11:35 AM EDT
      • I'm Back! - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 29 2010 @ 09:23 PM EDT
Corrections Thread
Authored by: bugstomper on Tuesday, September 28 2010 @ 11:29 PM EDT
Corrections here, please, with error->correction or s/error/correction/ in
the Title box to make it easy to scan over the corrections that have already
been posted.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic threads
Authored by: bugstomper on Tuesday, September 28 2010 @ 11:31 PM EDT
Here is the place to post off topic comments which become on topic in this
thread. Is that a paradox? You can discuss that question here, or anything else
except the topic of this article.

[ Reply to This | # ]

News Picks Thread
Authored by: bugstomper on Tuesday, September 28 2010 @ 11:34 PM EDT
This is the place to comment about News Picks articles that strike your fancy.
Please put the title of the News Picks article in the Title box and include a
link to the article (preferably a clicky in HTML mode) in your comment for the
reader's convenience after the article has scrolled off the News Picks sidebar.

[ Reply to This | # ]

COMES goes here
Authored by: bugstomper on Tuesday, September 28 2010 @ 11:35 PM EDT
If there's more to Comes there's more to go. Remember to post your
transcriptions with HTML markup posted as Plain Old Text to make it easy for PJ
to copy and paste.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Getting into it
Authored by: macrorodent on Wednesday, September 29 2010 @ 12:53 AM EDT
Re Question 3: If someone wanted to help but has no prior experience with OO.o coding, what should they do to get up to speed?, it seems they have already listed ways beginners can start contributing, on the page http://www .freedesktop.org/wiki/Software/libreoffice/EasyHacks

And the process of building it from source already looks more approachable than the original OOo, see http://www.documentfoundation. org/develop/ (I have not yet tried that, but will).

[ Reply to This | # ]

A Question on Java
Authored by: sproggit on Wednesday, September 29 2010 @ 02:32 AM EDT
Please forgive me if I am slightly off on my technical analysis of what we have
today, but I have a question on the relationship between either
LibreOffice/OpenOffice and Java.

It's my understanding that OpenOffice for Windows requires the installation of
Java in order to work. This is not true of OpenOffice for Linux, which works
without Sun's (now Oracle's) JAVA.

Given the recent legal activities that we've seen between Oracle and Google with
respect to the Java components used with Android, what possible ramifications
are there for LibreOffice and Java?

If we consider a worst-case scenario - i.e. one in which Oracle decides that
they do not wish to participate with the FOSS Community on this project and as a
result they "pick up their toys and go home" then what would stop them
from taking the same approach with LibreOffice that they have with Google? Would
LibreOffice be able and willing to re-write those portions of "OOo"
for Windows so that Java is not required?

Staying with the theme of aggression using patents for one moment, one of the
defenses that OOo has had with respect to patent aggression has been the
sponsorship of Sun Microsystems. Is there a risk that a separation from
Oracle/Sun and their patent portfolio might encourage another software vendor
with an office productivity suite to consider a patent-based attack to try and
drive LibreOffice out of existence. If this were to happen, are their patent
pledges or pools that could step in and help with the defence?

[ Reply to This | # ]

LibreOffice: +1
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 29 2010 @ 04:43 AM EDT
Sounds like this fork has a solid probability of succeeding.
Oracle has an opportunity for some damage control here:
donate the OpenOffice.org marks to the LibreOffice
foundation, and join in.

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • But no mono ? :( - Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 29 2010 @ 03:46 PM EDT
  • LibreOffice: +1 - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, September 30 2010 @ 02:18 AM EDT
Unable to access documentfoundation.org
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 29 2010 @ 06:55 AM EDT
Is anyone else getting timeouts when attempting to access
http://www.documentfoundation.org/ ? I've been trying for two days and I can't
get in. I *can* visit their page through an anonymizer proxy, so I know their
server's up. I'm on a fairly boring Canadian ISP, with a static IP address, so
I wouldn't expect to be firewalled. (And documentfoundation.org is the only
site I've encountered this problem with.)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Thanks - it was useful to clarify this
Authored by: hopethishelps on Wednesday, September 29 2010 @ 08:17 AM EDT

An outsider is never sure what is going on when a project forks like this, apparently out of the blue.

But now everything is clear, and we all know to migrate to LibreOffice when it comes out of beta test (or even before).

[ Reply to This | # ]

Is the Novell fork being used as a base?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 29 2010 @ 03:06 PM EDT
It is unclear from my reading what they are using as the basis for this fork.
Given the work Novell has done, it seems a better version.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Stop! Hold It! Flag On The Play! Big Problem!
Authored by: TheBlueSkyRanger on Wednesday, September 29 2010 @ 10:39 PM EDT
Hey, everybody!

I have a question about this that could spell doom for the entire project.

How do we protect LibreOffice from patent threats?

We are basically telling Ellison to suck mud. He doesn't like that. And then
there's the fact that M$ only indemnified StarOffice users, they reserved the
right to go after OOo users. There is no longer a Sun patent portfolio to
dissuade any threatening behavior.

What can we do to make us a less tempting target?

Dobre utka,
The Blue Sky Ranger

[ Reply to This | # ]

this is a very big deal
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, September 30 2010 @ 03:12 AM EDT
Take a commercial view on it. Microsofts Office business gets into billions. And
it is their sound leg. Just imagine how Microsoft will walk if that leg hurts,
like the OS leg.

LibreOffice aka OpenOffice is a thread to Microsoft. Just look how MS bended law
to get their own office standard. And how they try to get a grip on odf. How
fierce their fanbois are defending MS Office.

As in every billion dollar business, they will kill to keep it up. No mercy.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I've already downloaded a copy
Authored by: The Mad Hatter r on Thursday, September 30 2010 @ 08:57 AM EDT

And all I can say is 'Go Libre Office Go!'

I was always concerned about Sun, and then Oracle's control of Open Office, and
I think that forking it into a true community project is a wonderful move.


---
Wayne

http://madhatter.ca/

[ Reply to This | # ]

Charles-H. Schulz of The Document Foundation Answers my Questions About LibreOffice
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 04 2010 @ 04:10 PM EDT
Fork baby fork! Fork baby fork!

[ Reply to This | # ]

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